In celebration of Northern Kentucky’s heritage of business accomplishments, NKY Magazine, in partnership with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, has created the Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame to recognize the rich tradition of success and civic involvement in the region’s business community. The Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made a lasting contribution to the community in economic, cultural and civic endeavors.
Inductees will be honored at the fourth annual Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame event April 25 at the Metropolitan Club. This event is sponsored by Northern Kentucky University’s Haile/US Bank College of Business, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED and SpotOn Productions.
Registration and cocktail hour begins at 5 p.m., with the program and dinner starting at 6 p.m. RSVP by April 21 to celebrate our honorees in person.
Businessman and philanthropist
Robert Charles (R.C.) Durr continues to have a major impact on his native Northern Kentucky, a decade after his death in 2007.
The R.C. Durr Foundation, today an $80 million nonprofit he began in the 1990s, contributes millions of dollars annually for projects ranging from scholarships, to St. Elizabeth Healthcare, to walking paths along the Licking River, to 4-H Clubs, to Wi-Fi on rural school buses so students can do homework, and to support of food pantries and social service agencies across Northern Kentucky.
“He was a very humble person,” says Will Ziegler, foundation president and long-time attorney for Durr. “Although he was very wealthy, you’d never know it. His personality was easy-going, gentle and not assertive, things you don’t think of when you think of a hard-driving business man.”
After growing up on a farm in Kenton County, Durr used a gift of a few hundred dollars for attending college to instead buy a truck to go into business.
He started building farm ponds and built that into a road construction business that became one of Kentucky’s largest highway contractors. He was also a founder and director of several banks and spent 12 years on the Kentucky State Racing Commission.
Besides his public gifts, he made countless private donations over the years to those in need, says Zeigler.
“One I learned of after his death was to a man he didn’t know well but who was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t use the bathroom in his house because the door was too narrow. Mr. Durr hired a crew and they remodeled the man’s bathroom so he could use it.”
Durr typically didn’t want recognition for his philanthropy, Ziegler says, but would agree to it if it would help the project. One of his major gifts established the R.C. Durr YMCA in Burlington.
President & CEO, Carlisle Construction
Wayne Carlisle spends a lot of his time these days in Florida and Colorado, but he still owns the house where he grew up in Newport.
“He’s proud of the fact it was a small house and he came from humble beginnings. Through his ingenuity he’s done some really exciting things over the years,” says Jack Moreland, president of SouthBank Partners.
“Wayne and I grew up side-by-side,” says Bill Butler, his fellow honoree in the Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame. “His passion for Campbell County and Newport parallels mine for Covington. He works very hard to make a difference and improve the community.”
Carlisle started working in his father’s hauling and crane business as a teenager. The business grew into one of the nation’s largest crane and equipment rental businesses by the late 1990s. In the late 1970s Carlisle formed EGC Construction in Newport with Ray Beil, and was instrumental in building projects such as the new Covington Catholic High School and the expansion of Notre Dame Academy.
“He’s probably one of the most giving people I know,” says Moreland, who’s known Carlisle for more than 20 years. “But he also does it with humility. He likes to do things, but not get into the limelight.”
His most visible project was to commission the 66,000-pound World Peace Bell, on property he owns in downtown Newport. Carlisle envisioned it becoming an iconic landmark like the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch or the Eiffel Tower.
While that hasn’t happened, Moreland, who manages the site, says visitor interest is growing “exponentially. I think we’ll reach what he envisioned.”
William P. Butler
Founder & Chairman, Corporex Companies
William P. (Bill) Butler says the key to being a successful leader is to be yourself and have a vision about where you’re going.
Over the last 50 years, Butler’s vision has helped transform the profile of Northern Kentucky, from RiverCenter and The Ascent in downtown Covington to the CirclePort Business Park near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Butler, who grew up in Covington, built his Corporex Companies from a one-man construction business into a diversified real estate company with more than $1.5 billion in assets in 20 states.
But more than buildings, Butler says what he’s most proud of is Corporex itself.
“It’s a special company with a deep sense of purpose. People who work here buy into that purpose,” he says. “Corporex has always operated on the theme that a business is more than financial enterprise. We should make contributions both externally and internally, externally to the community and internally to the people who work here.”
The founder of the Butler Foundation and Covington’s Life Learning Center, Butler has served as a board member of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Lindner Center of Hope, the Metropolitan Club and the Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of Northern Kentucky. Earlier this year he was named a Great Living Cincinnatian by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Lately Butler has turned his focus from real estate to community development.
“I want to use the time I have left to make a difference in the community. My mission today is to do what I can to make Covington more vibrant,” he says. “I always say the only thing we take with us when we leave is what we gave away when we were here.”
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